Friday, January 18, 2008


Evolution Enlightenment

Peter J. Bowler is the author of Evolution: The History of an Idea, Third Edition, which is probably the definitive history of the concept of evolution. He has discussed at length the "Eclipse of Darwin" that occurred roughly beginning in the 1890s and ending only with the triumph of the "neo-Darwinian synthesis" in the 1940s. In his most recent book, Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons: Evolution and Christianity from Darwin to Intelligent Design, Bowler explains that much of the Eclipse was due to the reluctance of scientists at the time to embrace the materialism that evolution by random mutation and blind selection seemed to imply.

Even those engaged in restoring Darwinian evolution, such as R.A. Fisher, remained unwilling to embrace completely naturalistic evolution. Another major figure also demurred:

Some of the American founders of the modern Darwinian synthesis displayed a similar lack of enthusiasm for materialism. Most notably, the Russian émigré Theodosius Dobzhansky remained a lifelong member of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Dobzhansky's Genetics and the Origin of Species of 1937 was one of the key texts helping to link the genetics of natural selection with field studies: He recognized the danger that some church leaders might encourage a rejection of scientific advances, but saw no barrier himself between his work as an evolutionist and a liberal Christian faith. In fact, for Dobzhansky, Christianity was an evolutionary religion, since it called for everyone to participate in future human progress. As a refugee from the Soviets, he was particularly concerned to stress the role of human freedom as the essential basis for such participation. His 1967 book The Biology of Ultimate Concern made these commitments in a very explicit way. Like Huxley, he was also attracted to Teilhard de Chardin's evolutionary mysticism. He accepted the need to see evolution rising steadily to ever higher levels of mental and spiritual development, although as a good Darwinian he found it difficult to accept that the specific character of the human species was predetermined. Evolution groped its way forward in an uncertain and unpredictable manner -- it did not run straight toward a fixed goal.
Most everybody has heard of Dobzhanky's saying, taken from the title of a talk, that "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution." Perhaps less well known is the following from that speech:

Antievolutionists fail to understand how natural selection operates. They fancy that all existing species were generated by supernatural fiat a few thousand years ago, pretty much as we find them today. But what is the sense of having as many as 2 or 3 million species living on earth? If natural selection is the main factor that brings evolution about, any number of species is understandable: natural selection does not work according to a foreordained plan, and species are produced not because they are needed for some purpose but simply because there is an environmental opportunity and genetic wherewithal to make them possible. ... The organic diversity becomes, however, reasonable and understandable if the Creator has created the living world not by caprice but by evolution propelled by natural selection. It is wrong to hold creation and evolution as mutually exclusive alternatives. I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.
Surprise also makes sense in the light of evolution.


How you can claim to be both, blows my mind! This means that Jesus, the Creator, when becoming human, would also be a product of evolution having had apes, germs and slimy goo as His progenitors. That may be your God, but not mine!! Get real.
I wonder whether your objection to Dobzhansky's theology is best described as an Argument from Incredulity or an Argument from Consequences.
If one accepts that Jesus, as fully human, engaged in such mundane everyday practices as shitting, pissing, and farting, then it does not seem much of a stretch to hold that he was also, as fully human, a product of billions of years of evolution.

This does not conflict with the doctrine that he was also, at the same time as he was fully human, also fully divine. What distinguishes Jesus Christ from the heroes of Greek and Roman myth is that he is fully both God and human, and not, like Perseus or Achilles, an intermediate form between them.

I confess that I don't comprehend this doctrine, but then again, it is not mine to comprehend or defend. I will however, say this: any attempt to detract from Jesus' humanity risks falling into Gnosticism, since it is Gnosticism which holds that Jesus was not actually human, but pure spirit which took on merely the appearance of humanity.
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